it was a culmination of
that lead us to
We were as
as he was.
looking at posters
on spotting the signs of meningitis early
and help lines to give up smoking
and donating the blood
that had been drawn out of our faces
and the curtains
and the other patients
who were whiter than us
and as white as he was
and walking without direction
like retired zombies,
the reason to live had
from their eyes.
hanging heads and
told stories of time spent
living and breathing
to be here
in what had been
a life long battle
that ran so far back;
there was no tangible start,
no specific victim,
no innocent bystander
and no scapegoat.
We just wanted to see his face
and hold his hand
and for him to know that
he had not been
it started early.
He was dragged up
and around the house
by his father
who hit through him
for sixteen years
the melancholy he held inside
for the death of his wife.
the siblings who assumed
maternal and then paternal positions
soon followed the same way,
to the same place,
as far away as they could ever be.
time acted like carbon dating
on his spirit and visage;
a working life that bears
the stresses and scars
on the outside,
wearing the impact of pain
like a Kevlar vest
worn too tightly around the chest.
a huge sleep debt
that can never be reclaimed
and business that owes
a decade of sabbaticals.
the introspective pressure
of owning many things
and having few
and the deja-vu in the slipping away
of the few things that matter the most.
the turning to things for help
that can't help,
and will not help;
dependency on things that can't talk
and objects that have no heart.
blurring vision already impaired,
polluting lungs already noxious,
poisoning blood already bitter,
the resisting of that and those
that really can help,
and want to help;
like chasing a tail tied to a lamppost,
stubborn and down syndrome tense.
the potency of automatic defence
too strong to break
or shake violently,
too deaf to speak to
or shout at
or fucking scream at.
we watched as he slowly fell apart.
a life and a past that came out of nowhere
and everywhere at the same moment in time.
a childhood scribbled on paper
in a language only half English.
the concentration span of an infant
burning cigarette holes in fabric and skin.
stealing plants and trees from garden centres
only to return them in proof that
they were under staffed and inefficient.
crude poetry of filthy sex
and indecent proposals
to a wife he had always loved and protected like a
naked processions in private and public that
wore old brown slippers to the bone.
and the numb amnesia of it all.
the rejection of everything.
we watched as he was mauled to the ground like a wild animal.
it took three of them
on the grass outside our front garden,
a cattle prod
and straight jacket straps
that tighten around the ankles and knees,
to break his strength and his
we watched as they wheeled him away like a fruit machine,
bounded and gagged and
squealing like a terror stricken piglet
with hypothermic convulsions
that made us
the visits were short.
there is not much you can say to a stranger
that you think you know.
you learn that you can never learn enough,
you learn that there is no help from those supposed to help
reflections of small talk
echoed in the communal visitors room
which smells and tastes of chlorine.
speech and sentiment
and the pauses
grow ever more uncomfortable
and increase the distance
from the place he was at
to the place that used to be
he would elude simple questions
and engage in conspiracies of escape before
on the chair
by the window,
and we would leave him there until tomorrow.